Finding work after 4 & 1/2 years caring for Mum

For anyone who is bereaved or no longer providing care.
It is criminal that someone as highly qualified as you cannot be usefully employed in a proper capacity. Do you have any references at all from your former employers? Even if you can't trace the people that you worked with, because they have moved on or retired, surely the employer has an employment record for you?
What about applying for work in charity shops or British heart foundation furniture places etc or Mind charity shops? they wont want 2 references from previous employers etc. You could do that for a month or 2 then use that reference for other work.
Hi everyone,
My story is similar to other former carers on this topic.
In 2011, I gave up a well paid job after 26 years with the same company to care for my mum who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I got no support from my employer and as mum was not able to look after herself any more, but not bad enough to go in a home, I decided to care for her full time as we lived together anyway. I have no regrets as we had six valuable years together which I will treasure.
In 2017, I was so exhausted, that I had to make the difficult decision to put her in a home, which I unfortunately regret as she was treated appallingly for the last year of her life. She died last Aug 2018 in hospital of pneumonia and I miss her terribly.
Now I am a young 61 years of age and unemployed for the first time in my life. I am utterly shocked by the attitude of employers who think that caring is not an occupation. One employer in an interview accused me of lying on my CV as he did not believe that anyone would give up their job to care for a parent. Glad I'm not his mother!
Volunteering is worse. Nobody would take me on because of my lack of references, even at my local hospital. You would think that they would understand, but no. Eventually, last week, I made a last-ditch attempt to volunteer and got in touch with my local Age UK. They have taken me on in their furniture showroom, WITHOUT REFERENCES! It feels so good to be useful again. Living alone it is very easy to get depressed and after caring for six years, I feel I have a purpose in life.
However, it may not help me to find a job. Today, I attended a recruitment fair at my local hospital. It was like being kicked in the stomach. They take the same attitude as every other employer I have met. No references, no job. So much for our wonderful NHS!
Has anyone else managed to find work after caring? I need all the advice I can get.
Kim, Why not put down the names of your managers from the last two jobs you did work and the companies'phone numbers, even if they are no longer at those companies?
Prospective employers hate empty spaces on the application form. Perhaps you may have a pastor who knows you well. You need to get beyond the first screening out and get an interview to sell yourself to the hiring manager.
I'm 72 and have been retired for over 13 years so no up to date work experience, when I had to supply references for a volunteering job with a local charity I gave the names of two long term friends who knew me well and who had worked or still worked in important jobs. One held a senior post at a well known boy's grammar school and the other is a highly regarded financial adviser.

In reality all any employer is looking for is someone with (a) relative experience for the job concerned and (b) to know that you are trustworthy/reliable.

If you find a job that you really, really want and the only thing standing in your way is the lack of references then it might be worthwhile offering your services for a trial period without pay (say anything from one to three months).